Melissa and I got there at about 530pm which was perfect because the gate opened at six and we got a great parking spot. But the contraband Nazi's barely would let a woman take in a purse! We had to empty Mel's out and carry the contents in our hands because they wouldn't let bags in. I smuggled it through in my sweatshirt so we could reload it. Plus they snatch up your cell phone if it has a camera on it. No guarantee you'll ever see it again. They let you past the main gate at 6pm but wouldn't let you up to your seat or on the grass for another hour. The only reason I can think of is that the capitalist pigs wanted people wandering around buying stuff instead of spreading out their blankets and napping. I hate White River. If you're up on the grass, the sound is adequate at best. Or maybe they need a new sound engineer. Rush did a two part show and the first half, the vocals were too loud in the mix and somewhat muddy. Better the second half. But even still, the overall mix was too quiet. Maybe they don't want to disturb the neighbors.
The actual show was incredible though! They played 31 songs! Great light show (Lasers, tasteful pyrotechnics, the whole thing!) Amazing stage energy. It's plain to see that even after 30 years, the band still enjoys what they do on a stage. And they haven't lost anything with age. In fact, if anything, they've gotten better. Geddy Lee even looks less and less like a bird with age! Maybe the last two songs his voice was getting a bit tired, but until then he was perfect. Even on the old songs when he used to shriek like a 10 year old girl. He hit every note. I was damned impressed. Add in the two song acoustic section and you could really hear that he can actually sing. His voice is an acquired taste for a lot of people, but I've always loved it. Even his famous wailing of the early days.
There just aren't words for Geddy's bass playing. As a bass player, seeing it live is a religious experience to say the least! The crazy part is he can play like he does while singing at the same time! My band does a cover of a Green Apple Quick Step song called "Los Vargos" and our bass player is having trouble singing his part and playing at the same time. It's harder than it looks! (Any tips on singing and playing at the same time would be graciously accepted!) Of course, Geddy's been at it for 3 decades, but still, it's incredible to watch. He's a technical wizard but still manages to be tasteful and musical and emotional about it. I'm in awe.
I'm equally impressed with Alex Lifeson. You hear these songs all your life and after awhile you take for granted the talent behind them until you see what's going on live. If Alex wanted too, he could be another shred meister like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, but he chose to put the goal of a great SONG ahead of a great solo. Not to say his lead work isn't great. I think he's probably the most underrated player in the band and probably among guitar player's in general. Everyone agrees he's good but no one seems to talk about how good! Go listen to "By-Tor And The Snowdog" or "La Villa Strangiato" for great examples of his mad skills. Or even the solo in "The Analog Kid."
Speaking of La Villa Strangiato...they played all of it last night. Near the end of the song, something with Alex's guitar went tits up, but the band never missed a beat. It was flawless. Alex started some strange, hilarious story about pirates while he adjusted two of his strings and played a blues vamp with the rest of them. Yes, that's right folks. He's doing something with the hardware of his low E and A strings and then re-tuning them while singing and playing on the rest of the strings!! And Geddy and Neil just fall right into it like they play the song this way all the time! It was seamless. Alex was doing the whole pirate "arrrr" thing and singing things like "Blow me.......down" and just really odd improve stuff. And then he looks at Geddy, goes "1,2,3,4," and they switch back into one of the most intricate parts of La Villa Strangiato and finish the song. Good god, there are no words for the skills of the Lerxt man!
No words for Neal's skills either. There was a couple next to me on my left and it was obvious that the woman was there just to accompany her obsessed husband. But after a particularly cool drum part during "Tom Sawyer" which was captured on the big screens, I heard her say, "Now I understand why you think he's the best drummer ever." That just proved to me the value of live shows, even in crappy venues. Music is a living, breathing thing, created by living breathing people. You just can't get the true feeling the artist wants you to have from a recording. You have to get it from the artist. Anyone that has the Rush In Rio DVD will remember Neal's drum solo from it. The one he did last night was similar but changed up quite a bit. And maybe slightly shorter. Maybe not. It was a bit more intricate than the Rio one, believe it or not. He used more of the musical note producing percussion and a bit more effects, like delay and reverb. I loved it when his kit rotated around him so he could get to his midi triggers and extra kit. He had like a 20 piece kit up there! Not counting electronic xylophone, triggers, chimes, timpani and assorted what not. They must lower him in on a rope or something.
So, despite the venue, the show was wonderful and well worth it. I really prefer smaller club shows where I can be right on the stage and feel the true energy. In big venue's it's almost like paying 40 bucks to watch a 3 hour music video. But I really enjoyed the show. I suppose only Rush could get me back in that place after Lollapalooza last year. But I have no regrets and it's cool to see that the Rush boys have lost absolutely nothing during the 5 years they took off after Neil's wife and daughter both died. Rush is a really phenomenal band. Don't take them for granted while they're still willing to play and put out recordings and do tours!